When customers affirm that they come to your stores to be inspired, perhaps it might be time to feed off that creativity with a well-thought-out retail environment. Such is the case for Irving, Texas-based Michaels Stores, which set out to build its customers the creativity-inspired store of their dreams.
After conducting extensive consumer research in the latter part of 2007, the Michaels team discovered that their customers wanted something very different from their store experience, says Stuart Aitken, Michaels’ chief marketing officer. “[The customer] loves our store, but felt there was opportunity to inspire her creativity more,” Aitken says. “She loves our selection, but felt there was opportunity to improve the organization and communication in a way that helped her navigate our store more easily.”
Keeping these issues and opportunities in mind, Michaels partnered with Dayton, Ohio-based Interbrand Design Forum to work on a new prototype that would debut in Hurst, Texas, with another store following shortly in West Chester, Ohio (pictured).
Opened in late 2008, the 23,000-sq.-ft. West Chester store (18,500 sq. ft. of selling space) has a clean, open layout, with contemporary colors, wider aisles and a crafty aesthetic that entices exploration. The company’s new ribbon-swirled logo and tagline—“Where Creativity Happens”—welcome customers with a canopy focal point and seasonal display at the entrance. Top-shelf stock—a prevalent storage method in previous Michaels stores—was eliminated to create open sight lines in the space. “We started from ground zero, reviewing everything from the box itself to what we put inside it,” says Walt Asbury, Michaels’ vice president of space planning. The new design has now been rolled out to 34 stores, with plans for more in 2009.
Working with the designers, Michaels identified product categories in the store that are most popular with its customers—Jewelry, Scrapbooking, Kids, Art Supplies and Custom Framing—and built destination shops for each that would “wow” the customer from the moment she walks in, Asbury explains.
Located in the center of the store, the Scrapbooking area, denoted with wood flooring, features patterned lighting drums suspended from the ceiling, with patterns actually offered in the Michaels product line. A central vestibule offering scrapbooking stations encourages customers to stay and create, and is topped with a patterned soffit that is visible from anywhere in the store.
Keeping the floorplan organized and easy to navigate was central to the design scheme, with the five shop-in-shop categories highly visible. “We really wanted to give more customer experience space to some of the key categories,” says Scott Jeffrey, chief creative officer, Interbrand Design Forum. In the jewelry shop, a forward-placed “Our Favorites” display features custom jewelry pieces with instruction on how to re-create them, as well as a furniture unit showcasing color-coded bead options. In the Custom Frames area, an oversized drop-down frame hovers overhead around a central service island. In the Kids area, merchandise is organized by age, with toddler-oriented products featured on lower 48-in.-high fixtures in front, and tiered gondola heights rising incrementally to 84 in. high at the back wall.
Whether a shopper is a first-time crafter or a seasoned pro, each of the store’s departments offers tips and advice, including project sheets that can be taken home for further instruction, Jeffrey explains. Shelf-level communications—with messages such as “You can do it!” and “How To…”—provide further motivation to the consumer as she moves through the space.
The new Michaels prototype aims to be the next-generation arts and crafts store for the creative spirit, offering inspiration around every corner. “Michaels is ‘Where Creativity Happens,’” Aitken reiterates. “This new store really brings that to life. Our customers have an inner desire and passion for what they do. We provide the tools to make it all happen, and now we provide the inspiration and encouragement as well.”